Environmentalists say Donald Trump does not have authority to shrink Utah monument

Environmentalists say Donald Trump does not have authority to shrink Utah monument

In addition to Trump, the lawsuit also names Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke and acting director of the Bureau of Land Management Brian Steed as defendants.

The Bears Ears National Monument signed into law in December 2016 by former President Obama was heralded as an advance in nation-to-nation relations between the USA government and indigenous nations.

"Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away", President Trump said.

While the legal battles play out, Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has introduced a bill that would prevent presidents from designating monuments larger than 85,000 acres and give states and local officials the power to veto a monument larger than 10,000 acres.

Until that question is answered months or years from now, the fate of the contested lands in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments will remain unresolved.

"Public lands will once again be for public use", President Trump said to cheers.

As expected, environmental and Native American groups were outraged. He told reporters the land targeted by Trump remains protected because it is still under federal control.

Earthjustice, which filed on behalf of ten groups including the Wilderness Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council, challenges the reduction of the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument, according to AP. Parts of Bears Ears National Monument are potential sites for oil drilling and gas extraction.

Outside Trump's announcement Monday, roughly 3,000 protesters lined up near the state Capitol.

"The families and communities of Utah know and love this land the best, and you know the best how to take care of your land", he said.

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, spoke to CNN about Bears Ears early Monday, saying: "I'm going to sue him".

"The fact that it's being revoked like this is a complete affront to those tribes, and we didn't hesitate to offer to defend them to the bitter end to help defend this area", says Natalie Landreth, a staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund, an organization representing three of the tribes in the suit. The company changed its home page Monday in protest of the decision.

The company Patagonia-which already campaigns to protect swathes of the eponymous wilds in Argentina and Chile-said it would file a lawsuit against the Trump Administration in partnership with local community and environmental groups.

Unlike national parks, which can only be created by an act of Congress, national monuments can be designated unilaterally by presidents under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which is meant to protect sacred sites, artefacts and historical objects.

A coalition of five tribes that pushed for the monument argued in a lawsuit filed in Washington late Monday night that the law only gives presidents the ability to create a national monument, not the ability to downsize one.

The issue has never been settled in court.

Noel plans to intervene himself, filing a court brief to show support for the president's actions.

A ruling in favor of the government might put boundaries of national monuments in flux. The Antiquities Act does not, however, grant presidents the authority to diminish or rescind the monument designations of their predecessors.

Unlike national parks, which must be established by Congress, each monument has its own rules for how the land can be used.

"Everybody, I think, wants some stability and certainty about what lands are protected and what lands are open to development going forward, and to have it bounce back and forth nearly like a ping pong ball would not be helpful", Keiter says.



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